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40 attackers killed, reporters taken hostage during uprising in DR Congo capital

Reports say that 16 people were killed at the airport, while eight died at the national radio and television premises.

A heavily armed Congo trooper provides security, with others unseen, for villagers on the outskirts of Walikale, Congo
A heavily armed Congo trooper provides security, with others unseen, for villagers on the outskirts of Walikale, Congo
Image: AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam

FORTY PEOPLE WHO took part in an uprising today in Kinshasa, taking hostages and firing at the airport and a military headquarters, have been killed, the DR Congo government said.

“There were 16 who fell at the airport, eight who died at the RTNC (national radio and television) premises and 16 at the general staff headquarters,” government spokesman Lambert Mende told AFP.

No civilian casualties have been reported and no victims in the security forces.

Heavy gunfire erupted in several areas of the Congolese capital Kinshasa earlier today, including the international airport and the military headquarters, causing panic among residents.

Hostage

Police also said armed youths had taken hostage several reporters from the state television station RTNC in Kinshasa.

Shooting was heard near the Tshatshi military camp as well as the international airport at Ndjili, residents and a local journalist said.

Police officers, soldiers and the president’s Republican Guard fanned out across the capital to restore security, an AFP reporter saw.

A police spokesman said earlier that journalists at RTNC had been taken hostage by armed youths, and the television feed had been cut.

“They are armed with machetes and guns. They have taken reporters hostage. An operation is under way to dislodge them,” spokesman colonel Mwana Mputu told AFP.

Before the station’s television feed was cut, two young presenters were seen on screen, appearing frightened but calm, with a young man standing behind them seemingly threatening them.

DR Congo unrest

The DR Congo is a vast country rich in a wide range of minerals, where eastern provinces have been in turmoil since even before President Joseph Kabila took office in January 2001, following the assassination of his father, Laurent-Desire.

The western capital has by contrast remained relatively calm, apart from an apparent coup bid in 2003 blamed by police on troops loyal to ousted dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown by Laurent-Desire Kabila in 1997. The uprising was rapidly quashed.

A second coup bid attributed to renegade forces in the presidential guard took place in June 2004, but was also swiftly put down.

The main persistent source of trouble in Kinshasa comes from gangs of unemployed armed youths known as “kuluna” who murder, rob and assault residents of the city. Kinshasa police on November 15 launched a three-month operation to tackle these gangs, raising UN complaints of summary executions.

The latest insurgency in the capital comes the month after the national army, or FARDC, achieved a rare and striking military success in the strife-torn eastern North Kivu province over a powerful armed movement, the M23, which surrendered in neighbouring Uganda.

Kabila’s troops were backed by a special intervention brigade of UN African soldiers, which had in March been given an unprecedented offensive role by the UN Security Council to neutralise the various armed movements that have plagued eastern DR Congo for more than two decades.

- © AFP, 2013

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